Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ricky Hill must think BH citizens care not for Jean Klock Park

[In the following article, "Whirlpool" can be substituted for "Harbor Shores" and "Citizens for Progressive Change." In fact, some might say that all of Berrien County is under Whirlpool control, including all local governments, and the courts and media.]

Two sue city and Harbor Shores

Lawsuit contends Jean Klock Park plan violates 2004 settlement

H-P 7/15/08
BENTON HARBOR —Ac­tivists working to keep a golf course out of Jean Klock Park are suing Benton Harbor and Harbor Shores for allegedly violating a 2004 court settle­ment forbidding further priva­tization of the city-owned park.
Carol Drake, vice president of Friends of Jean Klock Park,
and Clellen Bury, a Benton Harbor resident, filed the suit last week in Berrien County Trial Court.
The suit alleges that Benton Harbor is violating a settle­ment it made in 2004 after Drake, Bury and four other citizens sued the city for sell­ing four acres of Jean Klock Park for a residential develop­ment on Grand Boulevard.
Drake and Bury, along with Gladys Peeples-Burks, Joseph
Shurn, Norman Stemm and Princella Tobias, sued Benton Harbor in 2003 for what the plaintiffs said was a violation of the conditions John and Carrie Klock set forth when

they conveyed the park land to the city in 1917.
The deed from the Klocks reads that the land “shall for­ever be used by said City of Benton Harbor for bathing beach, park purposes or other public purpose; and at all times
shall be open for the use and benefit of the public ... .”
The plaintiffs and the city settled the suit in January 2004, allowing the land sale in exchange for an injunction against further privatization or conversion of Benton Harbor’s only park on Lake Michigan.
Drake and Bury say the city is violating that settlement by agreeing to lease 22 acres of

These houses were built along Grand Boulevard after Benton Harbor sold part of Jean Klock Park to developers. A lawsuit contends leas­ing part of the park for use as a golf course violates a 2004 agreement that no more park land would be used for private development.

the 73-acre park for three holes of a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. The course is the centerpiece of the $430 mil­lion Harbor Shores develop­ment planned to cover 530 acres in Benton Harbor, Ben­ton Township and St. Joseph.
Benton Harbor City Man­ager Richard Marsh said city leaders and Harbor Shores de­velopers do not believe the plaintiffs’ argument has any merit.
“We believe that a public golf course is, indeed, accept­able as a public park use,” said Marcus Robinson, a Harbor Shores trustee and president and CEO of Citizens for Pro­gressive Change.
City leaders and developers have emphasized Benton Har­bor is planning to lease – not sell – the land to Harbor Shores, so it will remain part of a city-owned park.
The city and Harbor Shores have agreed on an arrange­ment for the lease of the 22 acres for three holes of the course. The National Park Ser­vice has been reviewing the agreement since June 16 and,
because the agency awarded the city a $50,000 grant for park improvements in the 1970s, has the power to allow or reject the lease.
Scott Howard, a Traverse City attorney representing Drake and Bury, said that if the NPS approves the lease agreement while the lawsuit is still pending, he will request a preliminary injunction against construction at the park until the suit is resolved.
Harbor Shores has agreed to maintain

the remainder of Jean Klock Park, pay Benton Har­bor at least $35,000 per year for use of the 22 acres and add more than 38 acres of park land in other parts of the city.
Park preservationists have argued that the acreage offered by Harbor Shores does not match the monetary or recre­ational value of the land in Jean Klock Park.
The Jack Nicklaus Signa­ture golf course will be open to the public, but will charge fees ranging from $65 to $225 per round, Harbor Shores trustee Mark Mitchell told The Herald-Palladium last August. Robinson said at Monday’s Benton Harbor City Commis­sion meeting that city leaders should be “ticked off” about the lawsuit, adding that it “rep­resents
injustice against resi­dents of Benton Harbor.”
“I encourage you to stand your ground,” Robinson told the commission. “I stand with you. If they want to fight, let them bring it on.”
The City Commission voted 6-2 to hire the law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone to represent the city in the mat­ter. Commissioner Juanita Henry and Mayor Wilce Cooke voted against the mo­tion and Commissioner David Shaw was not at the meeting.
Henry said she voted against hiring the firm because she was not completely pleased with work it had done for the city in the past. Cooke did not explain his vote.
Marsh said Harbor Shores has agreed to pay the legal bills.
Several city commissioners expressed anger and frustra­tion with the lawsuit and what they called a small minority opposing the Harbor Shores project.
“I always say it’s the Friends of Jean Klock Park; it’s not the Friends of Benton Harbor Cit­izens,”
Commissioner Ricky
Hill said.